Investors and analysts have torn Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) and its already wounded BlackBerry brand into pieces following a more than disappointing quarter. Sales are slowing considerably and have turned into a decline, suggesting that RIM could be the next Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) roadkill. We disagree, as long as RIM returns to its old strengths and remembers why consumers fell in love with BlackBerrys.
Not too long ago, there was little RIM could do wrong. The company released pathetic, half-baked smartphones such as the BlackBerry Pearl and there was no reason to believe that anyone would dare to give it a bad review. Those times are over, and RIM carelessly gambled away its huge market advantage within three years. The common analysis is that RIM was in denial that it had phones that were inferior to the iPhone, which ultimately sent the BlackBerry down the path of Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) and Palm.
RIM smartphone sales are tanking because of a wave of much more appealing devices from Apple as well as countless Android device makers. There are no BlackBerrys in sight that could stabilize third-quarter sales, and rumor has it that there won't be compelling phones in the fourth quarter, either. The current lineup is aging quickly, and it's clear that only those who have to use a BlackBerry phone and those left with no other choice will, in fact, get a BlackBerry. No one in his or her right mind will choose a BlackBerry Torch over an Android phone or an iPhone today.
Add to that a software platform that's falling behind, an app store that isn't worth mentioning, hardware design flaws in recent device generations, and severe build-quality issues, and there are plenty of reasons that can explain the fall of BlackBerry. In simple words: RIM has lost its passion for the BlackBerry and has forgotten what the BlackBerry is.
I don't share the view that the BlackBerry is burning as much as Nokia is, and for some reason I don't believe that it's the same type of WebOS wreck that Hewett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) has acquired with Palm. Nokia's future with Windows Phone 7 is more than questionable as Nokia's management struggles to keep a shredded barge afloat, and we can only scratch our heads over HP's efforts to maintain WebOS on life support, as it's clear that the platform's time has passed. RIM has a strong brand with an exact definition and a perception that isn't marked by as much doubt and negativism as, for example, WebOS.
RIM has good reason to believe that the BlackBerry isn't dead yet: 500,000 Playbook tablets have been sold, most likely to loyal BlackBerry phone owners. That's more than any other non-iPad tablet sold. RIM has a working platform with substantial value that can support different types of devices. The PlayBook may not be perfect, but it is the best iPad alternative yet, simply because RIM created an incentive for BlackBerry users -- an incentive that's based on brand value and the feature set of the device. If you own a BlackBerry phone, you may prefer a PlayBook tablet over an iPad.
RIM is wounded, but it isn't dead. It's still selling lots of smartphones and it is still highly profitable. However, the company needs to return to old strengths to grow again. More than a decade ago, the company catered to the needs of business users and revolutionized the way we used our phones. Today, we don't need another iPhone copy. RIM needs to think about the phone after the iPhone. If RIM can invent the next big trend, it has every opportunity to rise again. If it pitches just another iPhone rival, it will get lost and will be eaten up by the iPhone, Android, and most likely Windows Phone as well.
We don't think RIM is an acquisition target at this time (perhaps HP should have waited a year and bought RIM instead of Palm), but it's only natural that the discussion about a purchase interest in RIM is gaining traction. We heard that Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) could be potentially interested in the company, but we that IBM (NYSE: IBM ) would offer a much more interesting deal: Given the rivalry between HP and IBM, RIM could embarrass HP and seamlessly fit into IBM's business strategy, which focused on delivering IT solutions for enterprises. Realistically, the consumer business has never been a great fit for RIM and always seemed a bit awkward.
IBM could lead the way back to RIM's roots and strengths.
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